Evgenii Dadonov prepared to mentor young Senators teammates

Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion discusses the additions made to his team as well as what the newly acquired Evgenii Dadonov brings to the Senators.

Say goodbye to the Bobby Ryan puppy signs, and hello to ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’

Evgenii ‘Daddy’ Dadonov spoke to reporters via Zoom on Monday about his enthusiasm for joining the Ottawa Senators as a free agent signing, and he took a moment to credit former Florida Panthers coach Bob Boughner for giving him the “daddy” handle.”

Boughner, weighing a three-syllable Russian surname and a three-syllable Russian first name, told Dadonov: “I’m going to call you Daddy.”

To the relief of his teammates, the name stuck.

Fittingly, the player known as Daddy will have a role as a veteran and mentor for a young Senators roster. In conversations with general manager Pierre Dorion and head coach D.J. Smith, Dadonov was presented with a host of opportunities in Ottawa, including the chance of playing plenty of minutes.

“They told me I would have a good role on the team because there’s not a lot of veterans on the team,” Dadonov said. “It’s time for me to step up, as one of the most experienced guys on the team. I’m ready for that.”

Dadonov, 31, is coming off three consecutive seasons of 25-plus goals with the Panthers. He says he spoke with six or seven NHL teams during the free agency period that began Oct. 9 and settled on Ottawa because he saw a chance to be a big part of something special with a team on the rise. His three-year contract has an average annual value of $5 million.

“I’m really excited to play for this team,” he said. “It wasn’t a decision made because of the contract -- I hope this team is going to have success and be in the race for the Cup for the next few years.”

Asked about Ottawa’s top young players, Dadonov believes that defenceman Thomas Chabot and forward Brady Tkachuk “have a chance to be superstars in the league.”

Some have already pencilled Dadonov in on the right side of a line with Tkachuk and centre Josh Norris, but with the first skates of training camp still several weeks away, Dadonov is not concerned about who his linemates might be.

“Tkachuk is a good player, a powerful forward,” Dadonov says. “There's a lot of good young guys. I spoke to the coach and GM and they told me Norris played well in the minors last year, scores a lot of goals, is pretty skilled and a good player.

“I know Tim Stuetzle who was drafted third overall, he’s supposed to be very good, talented.

“There are high skilled players. The team has talent.”

And it will be up to Smith to sort it out.

“I can play with anybody,” Dadonov said. “I don’t want to say ‘I want to play with this guy or that guy.’ It’s going to be the coach’s decision.”

Smith and Dorion were able to sell Dadonov on the Senators' style of play -- uptempo with a strong forecheck and a power play that could use a scoring winger after the departures of Anthony Duclair and Bobby Ryan.

“We know he’ll be on the first power play, because he’s got a proven track record on the power play,” Dorion said. In fact, nearly half of Dadonov’s 25 goals came with the man advantage (11).

Dorion said he liked the fact that Dadonov scores “legit goals,” with a quick release and hard shot.

Dadonov spoke with several current Ottawa players before he signed and noted they all had good things to say about the city and organization. He says he knows “all the Russian guys” on the team, including Nikita Zaitsev and Artem Anisimov on the NHL roster. He also trained for a couple of years during the off-season with Senators prospect Vitaly Abramov, who comes from Dadonov’s hometown of Chelyabinsk.

A third round draft pick (71st overall) of the Panthers in 2007, it took Dadonov years to get established in the NHL, but that also means he doesn’t have as many hard miles on his body as some 31-year-olds in the NHL.

Dadonov spent five years in the KHL from 2012-2017 before growing into the scorer he would become at the NHL level. From 2017-2020, Dadonov appeared in all but eight of Florida’s 233 regular-season games and ranked third among Panthers in scoring with 182 points (81 goals, 101 assists).

Dadonov was asked what he can bring from his experience with the Panthers, a team that has been threatening to contend.

“I hope I can bring a lot,” he said, “especially the attitude I have -- to work hard, practice and play hard. And I hope I bring more skill to the team.

“I'm going to try to do my best. I hope the team is going to step up.”

Playing in a Canadian market?

No big deal, Dadonov says.

“I love to play hockey, it doesn’t matter where -- in Canada, Florida or Russia.”

Bell Capital Cup postponed indefinitely

The 22nd edition of the Bell Capital Cup in Ottawa, which bills itself as the world’s premier atom and peewee hockey tournament, will not be taking place as scheduled between Dec. 28 and the first week of the New Year.

The Ottawa International Hockey Festival board of directors announced on Monday that due to concerns over COVID-19, the tournament will be postponed and possibly cancelled until next year. In a statement, the OIHF board said that given the current coronavirus numbers and restrictions in amateur hockey, it was not feasible to hold the tournament. The board also cited the health risks to volunteers, spectators and participants.

“The OIHF is committed to playing a major part in celebrating the return to hockey in its fullest form when it becomes safe to do so,” read the statement. “In the interim, the tournament’s board of directors will continue to investigate all options, including holding a tournament later in the winter or postponing the 22nd edition until its usual time next winter. Further updates will be announced as the situation evolves, and when public health, government and hockey’s governing bodies deem it safe to return to tournament play.”

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